Maia had been staring up at the dark blue sky for so long, she began to worry that morning would never come. Her body, sore from battle, refused to give way to sleep. The ache from her muscles had now settled into her bones. The wind picked up softly, blowing through her small camp, waking the leaves in the trees. She stretched her arms out, folding them behind her head and took in a deep breath. Freedom. Exhaling, she thought about how it was more costly and difficult than she had ever imagined.
The ground next to her rustled quickly. It was Aella, turning over in her sleep. Maia smiled and thought, “at least one of us is getting rest.” She glanced around the burned-out campfire, noting the love she had for each blanket-covered-lump. As much as Maia felt alone in the world, they were always with her. Their battle wounds were like hers, some from the same wars, carved out by the same claws. Other scars were older, from before.
Maia reached her hand into her shirt, running fingers over her chest, just above her heart. Her first wound was by far the deepest. The scar had been healed over for years, its span about 6 inches long, a jagged 2 inches wide. Her thoughts drifted back to the monster who made its mark on her body. She thought for sure one day those blows would cause her heart to fall right out of her chest. Maybe the beast would just rip it out with its teeth. There were moments she silently prayed for that. That’s the only way she could imagine the terror ending.
One blow too many can end a person. But for Maia, that last blow made her a warrior.
She often wondered what it would be like to live in a world where there were no monsters. To be a little girl, freely playing in the woods, swimming in streams, making flower crowns in a meadow, all without the fear of being scooped up by claws and locked away in silence. What is it like to be alone without scars and the haunting memory of how you got them?
“Maybe things would have been different. Maybe I would have been different… No. Fuck different.”
Had Maia never known what it is to cower in fear, she would’ve never found the strength necessary to defend the weak. Had she never experienced searing pain inflicted upon her flesh and soul, she wouldn’t know what it is to rise up and take down a monster with her bare hands.
Maia’s thoughts moved to the face of the first girl she had ever rescued. Standing over a lifeless monster, catching her breath, she felt a sudden blow to her right leg. Looking down, she saw two giant brown eyes, filled with tears looking up at her. A tiny girl had wrapped her body around her leg, hugging tight. Maia bent down and held the dark-haired beauty in her arms.
She wiped away the child’s tears from her dirty face and whispered, “See, monsters can be defeated. You just have to know how. Want me to show you?”
The girl forced a smile to keep her lip from quivering and nodded. Maia took a small knife out of her boot and handed it to the girl.
“Hold onto this so that you feel brave, but know that your greatest weapon is invisible. It’s hiding deep inside of you. It’s getting stronger every day, awaiting your command.”
Maia felt tears trickling down the sides of her face and she was pulled from the memory as dawn began breaking over the horizon. Sitting up, she wiped her face, and tied back her wild mane. Clearing the sorrow from her throat, stirring her comrades awake, Maia reached for her armor.
To the warriors: Keep breathing. Keep fighting. Keep loving fiercely. Keep setting the captives free. xoxo.